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Boy Bishop token. Bury St Edmunds Circa 1450 AD.


A 15th century lead-alloy "Boy Bishop" token produced in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. The cult of St. Nicholas and its associated ‘Boy Bishop’ tradition was widely celebrated every year in England from the early 15th century. Choristers would elect one of their number to be the Boy Bishop, who would assume the role of bishop from St. Nicholas Day on December 6th until Holy Innocents Day, December 28th. The chosen boy was dressed in full bishop’s robes with mitre and crozier and, attended by his comrades dressed as priests, made a procession through the town, blessing the people and handing out these tokens to the poor. The chosen boy and his colleagues would typically take possession of the cathedral, and would have performed all the ceremonies and offices, except Mass. The obverse of this token depicts a bishop’s mitre and is inscribed SANCTVS NICHOLAVS, for St. Nicholas, or Father Christmas! The reverse mimics the coinage of the period, inscribed AVE REX GENTIS, "hail the king of the nation".

This example with clear detail and much of the legend in evidence.

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